REAL Award Shortlist

You Choose: The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove has made it onto the shortlist for the REAL awards in the category of “Fiction For Younger Readers”. REAL stands for Reading & Enjoying Australian Literature. Books on the REAL shortlist have been nominated by kids across the country. And the shortlist is then voted on by kids in a series of separate state-based awards — the YABBAs (Young Australians Best Book Awards) in Victoria; the KOALAs (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) in New South Wales; the COOL Awards (Canberra’s Own Outstanding List Awards) in the ACT; and the KROC Awards (Kids Reading Oz Choice Awards) in the Northern Territory.

What an amazing set of acronymous awards!

I am delighted and honoured and excited for my book to be on the “Fiction For Younger Readers” shortlist along with…

  • Alice Miranda in Japan by Jacqueline Harvey
  • Andy Roid and the Avalanche of Evil by Felice Arena
  • Billie B Brown: The Bully Buster by Sally Rippin (illustrated by Aki Fukuoka)
  • Don’t Look Now Book 4 by Paul Jennings & Andrew Weldon
  • EJ12: Time to Shine by Susannah McFarlane
  • Our Australian Girl: Meet Grace by Sofie Laguna (illustrated by Lucia Masciullo)
  • Our Australian Girl: Meet Letty by Alison Lloyd (illustrated by Lucia Masciullo)
  • Pizza Cake by Morris Gleitzman
  • The Lost Circus: The Last Elephant by Justin D’Ath

Such wonderful company!

The full shortlist of all categories is available from the YABBA website.

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You Choose 8

Time for another cover reveal — You Choose 8: Trapped in the Games Grid. Artist James Hart has picked up on the TRON influences to create this rather AWESOME illustration…

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The Somerset Experience

It’s one of those literary events that all kids’ authors talk about. It’s one that everyone wants to attend. And this year I was lucky enough to be invited along as a speaker to the Somerset Celebration of Literature.

Held on the Gold Coast by Somerset College, it is open to students from other schools, with kids in their thousands flocking to hear authors share their writing experiences. Three days of literary goodness with over 30 authors.

Did it live up to my expectations? No — it surpassed them.

It got off to a wet start with the Gold Coast hitting its visiting authors with a downpour. But as the rain dried up, the heat rose and the humidity climbed… higher and higher and ever higher. My smaller sessions were in air-conditioned classrooms. Cool! But my two larger sessions were in the Great Hall — up on a stage. Everyone knows that heat rises. I was literally dripping with sweat when I finished my sessions there.

A little uncomfortable, yes. But also memorable. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. The perspiration-drenched performances certainly contributed to the whole rock-star experience!

And really, for three days, that’s exactly how I felt… like a Rock Star! Not that I actually have any idea what real rock stars experience (I suspect there may be more alcohol, illicit substances and room trashing involved. Oh… and probably some music.). But in my mind it was akin to what it might be like for them. Sweat-soaked appearances on stage. Cheering crowds. Long autograph queues. Photo requests. Enthusiastic fans. And the festival bookstore almost sold out of my You Choose books — only two left after the dust had settled.

As you may have guessed, I had a ball. The students were engaged, enthusiastic and intelligent, asking great questions and getting involved in discussions. I also met a whole bunch of wonderful teachers and librarians. They too had great questions, and I had some wonderful post-session conversations about reading, writing and teaching.

There were also, of course, the other authors. I got to meet writers whose work I admire. I had fun green-room chats. I got to hang out with my fellow Random House authors. And, when I wasn’t presenting myself, I attended some of their sessions. Wow! So many different styles, so many wonderful speakers — from RA Spratt’s theatricality to Jen Storer’s simple and straightforward connection to her audience. I wish I had been able to attend more sessions, as there is always so much to learn from other presenters.

There are two speakers that I really must single out.

Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, spoke about her writing with the aide of a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation. I’ve always avoided using Powerpoint for fear of speaking to the slides rather than the audience. Melissa’s presentation showed how to use Powerpoint effectively while still engaging with your audience. At no point were the slides distracting. In fact, they added a lot to what Melissa was saying. And hearing her speak about geek culture, which is an important part of her writing, inspired me to head straight for the bookstore after her session. Mind you, at one point I almost jumped to my feet and raced to the front of the room to argue with her about the latest season of Doctor Who. Her opinion differs from mine and it took great restraint on my part to stay silent in my seat. :-) Well… in my humble opinion Series 9 was the best since Series 4. And Capaldi is brilliant in the role. Do you hear me, Melissa? BRILLIANT! BRILLIANT, I say! [Deep breath. Stay calm. Move on.]

Christine Bongers, author of Henry Hoey Hobson, Intruder and Dust, was completely different. Speaking about her life, and growing up in rural Australia, she related it all back to writing and to the shared experiences of her audience. She spoke with such laid-back authenticity, making her life and writing so accessible. She is a natural storyteller and her off-the-cuff style, no doubt making each audience member feel as if she was talking directly to them, was so engaging. Sitting at the back of the room, I could see kids nodding to each other and identifying with what she said. Pure gold! Again, I ran straight to the bookstore.

Presentations weren’t the only things on the agenda. There was a massive Prologue Party on the first night, which was open to the public, with free lollies, entertainment AND fireworks. There was an author meet & greet dinner before the festival and an amazing Long Table Dinner, with an evocative and entertaining speech from Icelandic author and academic Kári Gíslason, to finish things up. Oh my goodness, I still dream about the Table of Cheese at that final dinner. I kid you not, there was an ENTIRE TABLE filled with an assortment of cheese. (Damn… now I’m drooling on my keyboard.)

But the highlight for me was the Student Dinner, which allowed students some more personal interaction with the authors. Students were divided up into groups of 6-10 and sat at a table with an author of their choice for a carb-loaded dinner of pizza and pasta (Note: There was a salad on each table as well, but I don’t think so much as a single lettuce leaf was consumed.) with ice-cream and sprinkles for dessert. And then, 45 minutes to plan and rehearse a performance on an assigned topic, that was then presented before all attendees. It was a gloriously creative and chaotic experience, with added randomness. My group’s topic was “The Alien”, which led to a morality tale about alienation that still managed to include mind control, an arguing two-head creature, an irate Frenchman and, of course, Doctor Who. So much FUN!

Personal festival highlights for me included fellow Doctor Who fans (students, teachers and authors) seeking me out for chats; a plastic sword versus toy sonic screwdriver confrontation at the Prologue Party; and my two student minders Xenavee and Anneka. Each author had two students to look after them over the course of the event. With grace and good humour, Xenavee and Anneka made sure I was at my sessions on time, didn’t run overtime and didn’t get lost. AND at the end of it all, they gave me a present — Tim Tams and a chocolate Easter bunny. :-)

My Somerset experience was amazing! HUGE congratulations to the organisers!

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You Choose 7

It’s time for a reveal. James Hart has done it again — another awesome cover! I feel so lucky having an artist who really gets the books, working on the illustrations. So here’s the cover for Super Sports Spectacular.

The book will hit the shelves in August 2015. Can’t wait!

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Festivals, promos and other speaking gigs

2015 is shaping up to be a busy one in terms of speaking and travelling. I’ve hit the ground running with my first school visit and a radio interview last week. And there’s lots more coming up.

The visit was to Berwick Grammar, where I got to talk to all the Year 8 boys about my writing experiences and then took a smaller master class in short story writing. They were an engaged, enthusiastic and creative bunch of students. The school has a lovely rural feel to it, has some great teachers, and it’s logo appears to be a unicorn. What more could you want? Well… chocolates! They found out it was my birthday that week, so they presented me with a box of Lindt chocies. All gone now! :-)

The interview was on the 3CR programme Published…Or Not, which is a wonderful literary show that interviews a couple of writers each week. It’s well worth listening to. Check out the show’s webpage for broadcast times and recent podcasts (mine is the 12 Feb one).

I’ve got lots of speaking gigs coming up, including a promo tour later in the year to publicise the new YOU CHOOSE books. But what I’m most looking forward to is the 2015 Somerset Celebration of Literature. Held at Somerset College on the Gold Coast in March, it is one of the largest literary events for young people in Australia.

Over 30 authors and illustrators will be attending this event to talk about their work. And I’m lucky enough to be one of them! For a complete list of speakers and info on getting tickets, check out their website.

The festival has it’s own YouTube channel and speakers have been asked to create intro videos. Here’s my hopefully not too daggy one. Oh, who am I kidding? Here’s my very daggy vid…

There’s also an event later in the year that I’m very excited about… but I can’t tell you about that yet. I’ve got to wait until it’s officially announced. :-)

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You Choose covers

2015 has arrived and it’s time to reveal the covers for the next two You Choose books. Due for release on 1 May, they are Night of the Creepy Carnival and Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars. As with the first four books, the covers and internal illustrations are from the awesome James Hart.

I love these covers so much. Can’t wait to see the books in print. :-)

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YOU CHOOSE in 2015

Okay folks, it’s announcement time! I am VERY EXCITED to reveal that there will be a seventh and eighth book in the You Choose series! They have been tentatively scheduled for publication in late 2015. Working titles are Super Sports Spectacular and Welcome to the GamesGrid. The whiteboard is ready and I’ve begun to take the first tentative steps in the planning process. Love watching that pristine whiteboard whiteness slowly being covered with cards and arrows.

I can also tell you that illustrator extraordinaire James Hart has come up with GREAT covers for books five and six, Night of the Creepy Carnival and Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars, which will be published in May 2015. I can’t reveal them yet. But I can give you a teasing little taste…

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Stories for…

It’s Happy Publication Day for a new set of kids’ anthologies from Random House Australia. Edited by Linsay Knight, they feature stories from a whole bunch of great Aussie authors.

I’m very proud to say that I’ve got stories in three of them…

Stories For 7 Years Olds features “The Dog Ate My Homework”. This is a humorous story about excuses that was originally published in The School Magazine in 2006. It’s really lovely to see it back in publication for a whole new audience.

Stories For 8 Year Olds features a new story called “Liquid Mouse”. Well, new in the sense that it’s never been published before. I wrote the original draft of this over ten years ago. I tried submitting it to a couple of places back then, but it was rejected for being ‘too weird’. But now, after a bit of a polish, this weird story about a mouse trying to rescue his brother from an evil cat plan to liquefy and bottle mice, is finally seeing the light of day. I’m very happy about that.

Stories for 9 Year Olds features a new story called “50 Cents”. It’s a story about making links with the past, about looking to the future and about being Australian (even if you’re born in another country). I’m very proud of this story.

I’m also proud to share the pages of these anthologies with so many talented Australian authors, including…

These book are now available and I’m sure they’ll make great Christmas presents. :-)

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You Choose reviews

It just occurred to me today that I haven’t posted any links to reviews of the You Choose books. The first two books came out in April, the second two in June, so I think it’s about time that I did. The response has been pretty good. Here’s a small selection of quote and links…

“The books are fast paced, well written and place the reader smack bang in the middle of the action”
Series review by Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily

“this is a series that not only combines interactivity and reading, but also enables the reader to think about cause and effect, to consider the options, to take the time to make a decision, and to take risks in a safe environment.”
Series review by Barbara Braxton, ReadPlus

“George Ivanoff is on to a winner with this latest addition to his 70+ children’s books.”
The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove, reviewed by Marian McGuinness, Buzz Words Books.

“Ivanoff knows what kids want and writes as if he’s one step ahead of them, teasing them this way and that.”
Mayhem at Magic School, reviewed by Marian McGuinness, Buzz Words Books.

One of my favourite reviews is from teacher-librarian Sue Warren on her blog Just So Stories. She describes how her reluctant reader grandson was enticed by the You Choose books. As a former reluctant reader myself, I am overjoyed by stories like this one.
Read the review.

The best sort of reviews are the unofficial ones I get from kids and parents. Here’s one that was left in the comments section on my website:

“I recently purchased a You Choose book for my 7 year old son Kai at Armageddon in Melbourne. I just want to let you know that he absolutely fell in love with it and now wants me to get more of these. … He has always liked reading but he was getting bored with the readers at school. But for the past 2 nights he is bugging me to go to bed so he can read more of the story. He has already told me that we will be reading this book a lot of times.”

I couldn’t’ stop smiling after reading that. :-)

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Inside Story 2014

On Saturday I will participating in INSIDE STORY, an international children’s book event to be held at bookstores in Australia and the USA. Each participating bookstore will host a bunch of authors who will talk about the story behind of one of their books. This will be followed by signings

This is an annual event organized by The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The Victorian event will be held at:
Readings Hawthorn, 701 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122.
Saturday 1 November

I’ll be there to talk about my You Choose series. And there will be 11 other authors. So come along! Here’s a list of authors and the books they’ll be talking about…

Kim Fleming: Mummy You’re Special to Me
Renee Treml: The Great Garden Mystrey
Betty Sargent: How Far is UP
Jackie Hosking: The Croc and the Platypus
Corinne King: Little Dog and the Christmas Wish
Victoria Lane: Celia and Nonna
Alison Reynolds: A New Friend for Marmalade
Kayleen West: Without Me?
Julie Grasso: Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderly Manor
Pauline Luke: Knowing Joey Field
Goldie Alexander: In Hades

Check out the FaceBook page.

Read about last year’s event.

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